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Sony Says Eee PC Signals "Race To the Bottom" 393

Posted by kdawson
from the what-you-mean-we dept.
Alex Dekker writes "Sony's Mike Abary says in an interview, 'If [Asus's Eee PC] starts to do well, we are all in trouble.' Presumably by 'we' he means all the hardware manufacturers who sell over-priced, full-fat laptops. And he's not going to be too pleased when he sees the Linux-powered, sub-$200 Elonex One. Looks like what's bad for Sony may be good for the consumer." The CNet article mentions that a version of the Eee running XP is available in Japan now and will be coming to the US within weeks.
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Sony Says Eee PC Signals "Race To the Bottom"

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  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:43AM (#22601280) Homepage
    The EeePC was promised to be around $200.00 and it currently sells for $299.00 most places $399 for the decked out version. nearly TWICE the promised price. all the others come in way WAY over as well.

    Why buy a Eee PC when I can get a Dell cheapie of the moment with 12X the power at the same or LESS price. Last one I got was $369.99 on one of their 1 day sales. I can do way more than the eeepc and saved money.

    I'm for the race for the bottom if the race is sanely priced. right now it's not.
  • by trdrstv (986999) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:45AM (#22601306)
    I know it threatens their business model, but the majority of home users would be fine running a Pentium 3 caliber chip with a DVD burner and a big Hard drive.

    Are consumers actually getting to the point where they buy what they need rather than the high end, of what they want?

    Imagine if this were to happen to the automotive industry...

  • by montyzooooma (853414) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:46AM (#22601328)

    After all, it's an appliance.

    Charles Stross touched on this: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/11/commoditizing_our_future.html [antipope.org]

  • by wamerocity (1106155) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:48AM (#22601366) Journal
    First of all, all these little laptops are really cute, but for anything that's not listening to mp3's, looking at pictures, and surfing the internet you are in trouble. Now I realize that this is what the vast majority of computers are used for, but people overbuy what they need because of what they MIGHT do. People buy trucks bigger than what they need so they can occasionally tow a boat - you also buy computers more powerful than what you need because you MIGHT want to want decent quality video clips. You might want to do some video and audio editing, you MIGHT want to keep more than 8-16gb's worth of data on your computer, and you MIGHT want to use the plethora of programs/ features that are found on XP that simply don't work that well or at all in Linux. I don't know about you, but surfing the internet on a 8" screen with a 800 x 480 resolution screen sounds like a nightmare, especially if you are used to even an SXGA. I personally think these are cute little gimmicks, but only time will tell for sure.
  • by Calinous (985536) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:48AM (#22601372)
    Funny you say that in a thread about an Intel powered laptop.
          By the way, OS/2 is officially dead.
  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:58AM (#22601532) Journal
    I'd be really interested in an inexpensive laptop, when it truly is inexpensive! Whether you're spending $400 or $500, that extra $100 seems to get you QUITE a bit more in terms of hardware. I have trouble dropping $1000 on a laptop that is only marginally better than an $800 one; but I don't see a problem spending $500 on a laptop that is MUCH better than a $400 one. If you need a cheap laptop, just buy older technology! The devaluation on computers is worse than the devaluation on cars!
  • by mpapet (761907) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:14PM (#22601762) Homepage
    than just this one product.

    1. Take a look at this estimate of who builds laptops for what brand. http://tuxmobil.org/laptop_oem.html [tuxmobil.org] The brands like Sony might change vendors, but the manufacturers listed haven't changed, so re-arrange the check marks if you want to pretend.

    2. Many of the OEM's are marketing barebones laptops which are going to eat into Sony's laptop business in unpleasant ways. MSI and Asus are two notables. http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=23 [asus.com]

    Talk amongst yourselves....
     
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:16PM (#22601794)
    The history of laptops and Tablets is littered with the corpses of light low power devices that failed to sell more than a few thousand and died.

    Maybe, but the Eee is hardly in that category. The only doubt is how many million units Asus will ship this year.
  • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:27PM (#22601950)

    That's Sony for you: All marketing, no brains.
    I wouldn't say they have no brains. They consistently make high quality tech products. Blu-ray (despite being DRM crippled) will probably be the next CD. I sure hope it is. They chose to throw their engineering might behind Plasma TVs because, while they cost more, they produce a better picture (too bad the market preferred cheaper LCDs). They produced the first handheld 1080p camcorder, and it's actually high quality. Now anybody can make their own home-pro-snowboarding video. Their Vaio laptops are known, industry wide, for having, hands-down, the best displays-- AKA "X-Bright". They managed to create a great, cheap to produce for, entertainment system (PS1) and managed to duplicate that success with the PS2-- this thing has so many games I'm probably going to go buy one, even though PS3 has been out for [a while]. Now that Blu-Ray has won, I bet a lot of people will be picking up PS3s instead of other players when they get around to purchasing one.

    All I'm saying is I see Sony as a superb tech producer with simply misguided management.
  • by secPM_MS (1081961) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:27PM (#22601962)
    It appears to me that the critical thing to realize about the market in the developed world is that manufacturers are looking for reasons (marketable feature sets) that can be used to sell newer hardware to users who already have older hardware (in this case, new pc's to users of older pc's). Thus they exert strong pressure upon the OS and SW makers to add more and more features to justify the "upgrades". The software vendors do this as well, as otherwise their sale of a application package a decade ago would block their sale now.

    As long as a large fraction of the consumers are willing to continue the feature race, there is good money to be had. I saw one study some time ago that concluded that for each 1$ Microsoft received, ~ $18 went into the the rest of the industry. This is of course true of all the other areas of the consumer economy, which is focused upon creating and satisfying "wants" in a never-ending cycle.

    I don't want to get into a discussion of what people need vs. what they want. It does appear that the functionality to any given user increases very slowly with the total feature set of a product. Of course, different users will use different features.

    If you are willing to work with text mode displays, you could and can do very well with very minimal systems. I did very well with a 12 MHz 286 running DOS 6.1 with Word Perfect 5.1 and QuattroPro 18 years ago. 25 years ago I used Emacs and Scribe / nroff for writing documents on Unix systems. My cousin just had her Win 3.1 system die (also a 286 system). She had been using Word Perfect to write scientific papers.

    From a practical point of view, normal users needs for routine writing, spread sheet usage, and the like in a convenient GUI were satisfied with Office 97 on Win 98, and its equivalents. Win 98 systems were more than adequate for ripping of music and can handle moderate still image manipulation. I still have my Win 98 box (1.7 GHz P4, 80 GByte drive, although I upgraded it from 256 MBytes to 768 MBytes when I upgraded it to XP). Unfortunately, the Win 9X series were designed for a much less hostile environment than we now face. 9X systems should not be connected to the internet.

    Win2K was developed for the enterprise and did well. It had more security, configurability, and manageability than the 9X series.

    For consumers, XP followed the 9X series, and eventually offered far more security. The hardware that came of age in the XP environment is far more capable, and XP systems are easily capable of ripping and transcoding large video files and can easily handle speech recognition, and simultaneous demanding applications. Unfortunately, XP continued the 9X tradition of typically running the user as administrator and application writers made this assumption, making it very hard to run XP as a normal user.

    From my point of view as a security geek, Vista is a security enhanced XP with enough kernel security enhancements to break a number of bad security practices of XP - with ensuing application breakage. You can run Vista a normal user and a lot of work went into hardening the system. We have seen ~ a 50% reduction in MSRC issues.

    From a point of view of "needs", we get into a different discussion. What are you doing and in what environment? If you are producing text documents in a stand-alone system, you can get by with very limited HW. If you are working always connected to the web or a server, you can get by with a thin client. If you are in the mixed mode, the question comes down to what are you trying to do, and what support do you have available to do it. Most customer tasks are not that demanding and hence do not require that much HW. If I can go on-line to get functionality support that is beyond my box, I don't have to buy as much capability in my local device. We will see some interesting transitions in the next decade.

    I run Windows at home because the apps I use were written for Windows (for example, OmniPage OCR) and I could get drivers for my dev

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:29PM (#22602010) Journal
    you also buy computers more powerful than what you need because you MIGHT want to want decent quality video clips. You might want to do some video and audio editing, you MIGHT want to keep more than 8-16gb's worth of data on your computer,

    That's why you have a powerful desktop at home too. If you know that 99% of your computer use is editing text files, reading text files, playing mp3s or snes games then it's a great option. It was not so long ago that an eeepc would have been an amazing computer, even for a desktop and people still got work done back then. It's not really that big a deal to have to ssh back into your home desktop if you need something. And which is a bigger inconvenience: having to find a beefier computer once in a long while, or having to haul around a couple extra kilos all the time?
  • by Amouth (879122) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:30PM (#22602028)
    i have had the pleasure of using an EEE PC - they are nice.. but leave alot out.. give me one with a nice 1024x768 (atleast) screen make the SSD removeable and replace able with a 1.8in hdd (hell sell them with not SSD's too) and add internal blue tooth.. then we can start.. sure it wouldn't be 300$ at that point.. but it wouldn't be that much more - hell i would love to buy just the shell.. given it has a decent screen and a standard 1.8in drive connection.

    personaly i got a dell d420 with extended battery.. i couldn't be happier.. sure it is only a Core Duo ULV at 1.06ghz.. but it is dual core. and lasts 6+ hours on battery with wifi and bt on and the screen at a nice level.. it is only alittle heavyier than the EEE PC with a lot more power and storage and over all isvery nice.. personaly i use it as a desktop replace ment.. and when i got it the base price was >2k (agree not exactly worth it) but after mixing cupons i got it for 1200$ - very well worth it..

    I agree that i am sick of laptops that can't be used in the lap.. the EEE PC is cute.. and i might get one for my kid in a few years (once i have the kid that is) but untill they get alittle better specs on it.. it isn't going to kill off any good true lap usable laptops
  • by Xocet_00 (635069) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:41PM (#22602204)
    My only major objection to the Eee is the screen resolution. 800x480 is simply too low to be able to comfortably use full-blown internet applications. I'd love to see a slightly bigger WXGA (1280x768) display in there. The current models have pretty wide bezels, so they could 'fit in in', technically, probably at the cost of making the unit a bit thicker so that the support electronics can sit behind the display instead of beside it.

    Anyway, once a model comes out with higher screen res, I'm in!
  • by LocoSpitz (175100) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:45PM (#22602252)
    The biggest inconvenience is ponying up the extra cash to purchase a desktop and a laptop. Not everyone can afford to have a nice desktop at home in addition to a laptop on the go.
  • by Lordfly (590616) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:53PM (#22602380) Homepage Journal
    I bought one a month or two ago to take with me to classes. I was replacing a heavy-ass Toshiba Satellite, with a 15" screen. That thing was nice, 2-3 years ago, but the damn thing was too heavy to carry around everywhere.

    Enter the eeePC, which comes fairly cheap (mine was 399.99) with Linux pre-installed. It's Xanadros, and I'll admit, I'm a moron, so I didn't want to deal with it. Installing XP was anything but easy... lacking a DVD-rom drive, I had to port it to a memory stick, run a bunch of suspicious looking programs to make the stick bootable, and then run it from there. XP died after installing 4-5 times, 6th time's the charm...

    Anyways, with XP on it, it runs like a champ. All the drivers work out of the box. I think the eeePC is mostly made of commodity hardware too, making it a delicious geek toy. People have put touchscreens on it, soldered more stuff in the mobo, etc.

    Mine's pretty basic, I slapped in an extra 2gb of SD memory and 2 gb of ram, and then overclocked the processor to 900 mhz. Runs wonderfully. The little bastard can even run Second Life.

    I lurve my eeePC. I use it as a replacement for my pen-and-paper notepad.
  • by stm2 (141831) <sbassi.genesdigitales@com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:56PM (#22602440) Homepage Journal
    "devoted to the whole 'race to the bottom' thing without explaining exactly why Sony thinks this a problem".

    In early 80 terms: Sony is the TI99/4A and Asus eeePC is Commodore 64. Commodore engaged a price war with TI took TI out of the market. All micro-computers lowered the price at that time.

    I would be worry if I were Sony.
  • by DMoylan (65079) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:04PM (#22602534)
    > First of all, all these little laptops are really cute

    bullshit! it is really practical. as somebody who travels for about 4 hours every day on public transport i used to carry a 15" vaio laptop. even when i got that i was looking for a smaller laptop. over the 2 years i carried that laptop even though it was carefully packed and surrounded by padding the case was cracked and the harddrive killed by accidents while travelling by bus. even on the mac forums you will find people who want the old 12 inch macbook rather than the current 13 inch version. smaller is better if using public transport/bike/foot.

    > you also buy computers more powerful than what you need because you MIGHT want to want decent quality video clips. You might want to do some video and audio editing,

    i have never needed to edit audio or video. not even at home on my desktop. just something i have never needed to do.

    > you MIGHT want to keep more than 8-16gb's worth of data on your computer, and

    i can plug in my 150gb ipod as an external hd no probs. 32gb sdhc cards are available so it's only a matter of time i reckon before 64gb cards will be available. that's up there with the mac air.

    > you MIGHT want to use the plethora of programs/ features that are found on XP that simply don't work that well or at all in Linux.

    i could install xp on to the eee pc but as it already has firefox, thunderbird and open office 90% of what i need on the road are already there in an os that boots from cold in 25 seconds. a customer who saw my eee pc on wednesday who does powerpoint presentations on the road constantly saw that it displayed his powerpoint files and was half the size and 1/3 the weight and as he uses over head projection he can use the vga port no problems. he was in awe with the size of the power brick which was 1/4 than the usual laptop behemoth.

    > I don't know about you, but surfing the internet on a 8" screen with a 800 x 480 resolution screen sounds like a nightmare, especially if you are used to even an SXGA. I personally think these are cute little gimmicks, but only time will tell for sure.

    well i also surf on the 3" screen on my nokia e61i with no problems so i reckon by now that i'm used to using small screens (i've been using portable devices since the psion series 3a in 94).

    for me the major decider in getting the eee pc was that i could view the 1000s of pdfs i need on a portable device with out having to scroll left and right to see a single line. that it does beautifully.

    i would have gotten a olpc for the battery life and reader mode but they are not available in ireland.

    i'm just glad that somebody is catering for this market.
  • by Neil Jansen (955182) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:39PM (#22602966) Homepage

    Out of interest, how do you carry your Eee around?
    There are a few laptop bags made for the Eee, but they look more like a lady's purse than an electronics organizer :) I don't have a bag, I just pick it up and carry it around. It goes to and from work every day, plus to any bookstores, restaurants, or other places that offer free wifi.

    For the sites that do give you trouble at 800x(600|480), there's several things you can do.
    1) Run Firefox in full-screen mode
    2) Write a greasemonkey script for the particular site
    3) Use Compiz's Shelf plugin and resize Firefox to 1024x768 (I need to figure out how to automate this with a script), then scale it down to 800x480. Composite window managers rock.
    4) If you need to get some real work done, you can always connect a desktop LCD to it temporarily and do your work at 1280x1024.

  • by HybridJeff (717521) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:53PM (#22603144) Homepage
    Well then you're in luck, because an eeePC + decent desktop is cheaper than getting a desktop replacement style laptop.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:42PM (#22603914) Homepage
    Actually, you do need to give examples of great things Sony has invented since the Walkman.

    MD sucked. Trinitron was a cop-out with those stupid visible tensioners (superior quality MY ASS!). Blu-Ray won solely because they paid to win.

    Sony's only claim to fame is they still manage to convince the average Joe that his overpriced Sony TV is worth the money.
  • by DrVomact (726065) on Friday February 29, 2008 @02:44PM (#22603954) Journal

    I don't remember laughing at the idea of a personal computer costing less than $1000. I remember the early 1980s, when $200-$600 was the norm for a roughly-current-tech personal computer.

    I think you're comparing what was then a toy or curio with today's "serious" computers meant to do real work. What was available in the early 80s? Well, there was the Apple II. One of those would set you back $1300--for the cheapest model, with 4K of RAM(http://oldcomputers.net/pet2001.html [oldcomputers.net]). For its day, that was a serious computer...and for 1977, that was a serious price. True, you could pick up a Commodore PET for a mere $800 (http://oldcomputers.net/pet2001.html [oldcomputers.net])...but that was a pretty lame machine. If you're thinking of the Vic 20 or the later Commodore 64, or the various offerings by Atari, those weren't really comparable to a "serious" computer of today. They were fun, but not serious computers. My first personal computer was a Compaq "transportable" PC. It had 256K of RAM, 2 floppy drives (the "small" 5" sized ones)...and no hard drive. The screen was a grayscale monochrome about 5" diagonal. It was the size and weight of a sewing machine.

    I paid $1800 for the Compaq. In 80s money, that's quite a chunk. I told my wife I needed it for "business"...but really I just wanted to play Zork, and teach myself to progam in C. (Now there's a memory: I put the Lattice C compiler on one floppy, the code and editor on another, the linker and object code on a third, and compiled on a 128K RAM "disk" that I had split off from the 256K total RAM I had available. I felt like a juggler, swapping those floppies...but I cheated by usually holding one in my teeth. I also had to run in place in hip deep snow the whole time.)

    The point is that the price for "serious" machines has remained fairly steady, or declined moderately from the mid-80s, but it still costs what—to most of us—is real money to get one. (The price for gaming rigs, on the other hand, has skyrocketed.) But it's also true that some people spend too much money on laptops. If you're one of those "road warriors" who has to work spreadsheets, PhotoShop, or give live demos of bloatware, you need a $2K laptop. But if all you want is connectivity, then the $200 laptop is all you need. I don't think Sony has anything to worry about...some buyers, like parents who used to spend $1K on laptops for their kids will get the cheap ones instead. But there will still be plenty of buyers for the workhorse, expensive laptop. These cheap laptops don't replace full-featured ones. We're just seeing the creation of a new, needed, market niche: the cheap laptop for people who don't need the features and power of the expensive ones.

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Friday February 29, 2008 @03:54PM (#22604950)
    I had the unique experience to go to Japan two years ago as part of an NSF funded research project. When I got there, I was shocked to find that my 15.4" laptop was the biggest in the room. Out of 30 or so people, about a third had Apples, and the other two-thirds had Windows machines, but they were small.

    It wasn't unusual to see the participants carrying their laptops through the halls with the display open, holding it one-handed by a corner, and continuing to type as they went.

    While American laptops tend to be "full fat" beasts (see the 17" one at ZaReason.com, or the 21" mammoth at Dell), the Japanese have embraced smaller, more portable laptops (like the Kojinsha).

    Of course, the Japanese machines weren't as underpowered as the Eee PC is, but I think the Eee PC is a very good first step in getting Americans to let go of their bigger-is-better attitude when it comes to laptops.

    One last comment - my 15.4" laptop is too big to open when I fly coach. The front to back distance is such that it ends up jabbing me in the stomach. My next machine will definitely be 13" or less, no matter what.
  • Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by e40 (448424) on Friday February 29, 2008 @04:17PM (#22605264) Journal
    "We are making butt loads of money on PCs right now, and I'd hate to see that come to an end."

  • Driven by.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jdickey (1035778) <jdickey@seven-si ... minus physicist> on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:51PM (#22608090) Homepage

    The CTO of one of the companies I used to work for had a sign on his wall:

    There are five stages to a company's development:
    1. Idea-driven
    2. Engineering-driven
    3. Sales-driven
    4. Marketing-driven
    5. Bankruptcy

    He was leading the Army of Light trying to prevent the company's transformation into a sales-driven company. The company is now in the late stages of Phase IV.

    What has this to do with Sony?

    Sony are a fanatically engineering-driven company saddled in recent years (since the exit of the legendary Akio Morita [wikipedia.org]) with late-marketing-stage management. The rending asunder within the company, and the utter confusion of actual and potential customers regarding the brand, is the inevitable outcome of the "Hollywood thinking" or "American mentality" that is killing the company. Morita-san would never have "paid millions" to buy Sony's way out of the Format Wars; that's a large part of the reason the world watched VHS for many years - and why every serious video professional used Betamax. The fact that the "paid millions" rumour is entirely credible to so many is a loud indictment both of how far Sony have fallen and of the unchartable depths of moral character and leadership inhabited by the leading denizens of the media industry (well-represented by the MAFIAA).

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